Warren County Supports Kenan Fellow for Ag Education

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Warren County Farm Bureau is supporting Warren County Middle School science teacher Crystal Boyd in many ways during her year as part of the Kenan Fellows Program.

Do you know how many agriculture elements have to come together in order for 300 million people nationwide to be fed every day? Since most people do not, North Carolina Farm Bureau is taking on the challenge on a variety of fronts, especially by focusing attention on the younger generation.

One example of that effort is unfolding in rural Warren County.

The leadership of Warren County Farm Bureau chose to put its financial and physical backing behind a Warren County Middle School teacher, chosen to be a part of this year’s Kenan Fellows Program, a leading curriculum and leadership development endeavor for teachers across North Carolina who work with kindergartners through seniors in high school.

Groundwork more than two years in the making brought together Crystal Boyd – a Warren County native who worked within the school system while earning her teaching degree from N.C. Central University – with Warren County Farm Bureau President Jeff Bender.

For five weeks this past summer, Boyd visited with farmers throughout Warren County, from cotton-growers to hog-raisers. Her travels took her to other parts of the state, too, to learn how the raw materials grown or raised on the farm are transformed into what eventually lands on the dinner table or hangs in the closet.

Boyd praised Bender’s efforts to coordinate the logistics.

“He has been reaching out to farmers in the area and letting them know about my presence to see if it would be OK to visit farmers,” Boyd says. “He set up many meetings and visits this past summer. They were very welcoming and showed me around their farms and told me all about what they do and what they grow, how it’s produced, how their farms operate and what it takes to run a farm.

“He’s been so instrumental with the fellowship,” she adds. “Without him, I wouldn’t have had a connection to reach those farmers. He’s been my bridge and letting them know about what I’m trying to do. They’ve been so welcoming.”

Boyd is taking what she  learned from Warren County’s farmers and transforming it into lessons she can share with her sixth-grade science class. For example, she is hoping the class can plant a raised-bed garden so they not only can be outdoors but also have some hands-on experiences with cultivating a seed into a plant and beyond.

“My overall objective is to develop lessons that will incorporate agriculture into my science class, and have my students when I teach these lessons understand and value the farmer a lot more and understand what it takes to feed the growing population,” Boyd says.

Pictured from left, Warren County Farm Bureau President Jeff Bender, Warren County Middle School teacher Crystal Boyd, North Carolina Farm Bureau Director of Ag in the Classroom Michele Reedy, and Teaching Mentor Danylu Hundley.

Activities like this one have given Bender passion to speak about education beyond just production agriculture. Bender, who has been Warren County Farm Bureau president for more than a decade, is looking for Boyd and more teachers throughout the state’s education system to bring agriculture-oriented activities to the classroom beyond what might already be offered through programs such as FFA.

“It gets back to the point that just as we educate students about civics as to our how our country was founded and how it operates, they also need to be educated about how they’re fed every day so abundantly and what that involves,” Bender says.

Bender says Warren County Farm Bureau carefully considered its sponsorship of Boyd and her involvement with the county’s farmers before proceeding earlier this year. It’s a decision he hopes pays significant dividends.

“Everybody we asked to host Crystal, did it with enthusiasm,” Bender says. “Everything I’ve heard about what Crystal saw and did has been nothing but positive. We tried to expose her to a wide breadth of agriculture as it is in Warren County but also on a bigger scale to some other places in the state.

“I felt like here in Warren County, the superintendent and school board were very supportive of this. I’m hoping down the road we’ll see Crystal used as a tool by the school system. That’s a positive thing for me personally,” he adds.

Could other counties take Warren County’s lead and get involved in a similar project? Bender says each county board should weigh the options that might be available locally.

“It behooves and is incumbent upon individual counties to go ahead and take the lead in dealing with their local school systems and trying to bring them up to speed with regard to agriculture education about what it takes to feed 300 million-plus people,” Bender says.

“I think counties can go ahead and start playing a leading role. This is just one of the opportunities. I’m sure there are others out there that haven’t been explored yet. It’s certainly an opportunity to consider the benefits of having an intensely exposed and educated teacher in their school system,” he adds.

More Agriculture Education Initiatives

North Carolina’s Ag in the Classroom Program has had a busy year. Here are some major accomplishments:

  • A new website, ncagintheclassroom.com,  allows teachers to download curricula and provides information on additional resources and opportunities. A search box has been added to steer teachers directly to lesson plans regarding the content associated with the learning objectives.
  • Teachers share ideas and resources on the Ag in the Classroom Facebook page, facebook.com/NCFarmBureauAgInTheClassroom. A curricula specialist oversees, edits, and uploads information posted daily.
  • A curriculum exists for Pre-K through ninth grade and high school biology at ncagintheclassroom.com. All curricula aligns with Common Core and Essential Standards and is regularly updated.
  • The Going Local Grants Program has been initiated with 34 grants awarded in 24 counties. In July, a luncheon was held in Raleigh for winners regarding the Farm Bureau’s relationship with education and expectations of the Going Local Grants Program. Applications for the next grants series are now being promoted. The deadline is Nov. 15, and information can be found on the AITC website.
  • Workshops are now delivered in one-day sessions, earning teachers one CE unit for literacy education. Teachers receive the agricultural resources available to them in their counties at a farm shop during the morning session. Four curricula specialists deliver targeted “methods classes” in the afternoon. Ag in the Classroom staff found this to be far more effective than the more formal two- or three-day workshops held in hotel facilities because educators receive curriculum for their specific grade level and specialty area.
  • Emphasis is now placed on delivery of the Ag in the Classroom curricula to pre-service teachers in their university classrooms. Materials have been provided to UNC-Charlotte, Barton College, UNC-Greensboro, Chowan University, and UNC-Pembroke.
  • NCFB staff concentrates many hours on networking with statewide educational and agricultural organizations so as to build broad support for this educational program.
  • A. Biotechnology/Agriscience Industry Innovations Council headed by Norris Tolson made possible a presentation and display at the New Schools Summer Institute at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham on June 25. Grants and workshops were touted along with a biology lesson modeled.
  • B. The Going Local concept and the testing from this spring to produce data for AITC were presented at the National AITC Conference in Minnesota.
  • C. Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology, & Science at NCSU, NCFB AITC and Warren County Farm Bureau joined as partners in mentoring a sixth-grade science teacher for a Kenan Fellowship exclusively named “From Crops to Shops: Where Does Food Come From?”  During a five-week research “externship” the Warren County Fellow was engaged in learning about the food supply chain, careers in agriculture, the historical shifts in farming, and the critical need for farming to feed the world population.
  • Looking to the future, the next step in the evolution of Ag in the Classroom is a “The Rest of the Story” website, which teachers and students can access for solid, researched, and factual information on controversial agriculture subjects and issues.

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